Sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia will open their doors to women to attend football matches for the first time ever on Friday, the government has announced.
“The first match that women will be allowed to watch will be Al-Ahli versus Al-Batin on Friday January 12,” the ministry of information said in a statement on Monday.
It said women would also be able to attend a second match on the following day and a third one on January 18.
Women from across the vast Gulf kingdom may be able to take advantage of this new freedom as the first match will be held in the capital Riyadh, the second in Jeddah on the Red Sea and the third in the eastern city of Dammam.
The kingdom has in recent months eased some of its restrictions on women, including the lifting of a driving ban — set to go into effect in June.
In September, hundreds of women were allowed to enter a sports stadium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia’s national day.
The easing of social controls comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming.
The crown princes’ Vision 2030 program for a post-oil era stems partly from an economic strategy to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom recovers from an energy slump.